How can I read the subtle expressions that will tell me what he’s thinking and feeling?
What about all the sensory issues that dating brings to the forefront?
I’ve researched some advice from wise individuals, most of whom are Aspies themselves.
Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmit were recently featured in the New York Times article, Navigating Love and Autism. Jack and Kirsten were addressing a group of young people on the autism spectrum regarding dating.
On Being Alone
“Did you ever think you would be alone?" one teenager wanted to know.
Kirsten answered first. “I thought I was going to be alone forever," she said. “Kids who picked on me said I was so ugly I’m going to die alone."
This quotation speaks to the pain that’s compounded on top of just trying to navigate the social world. Bullying can deeply challenge a person’s self-esteem.
But Kirsten encourages us through her resilient example.
On Thinking About How You Present Yourself To Others
Her (Kirsten’s) blunt tip on dating success: “A lot of it is how you dress. I found people don’t flirt with me if I wear big man pants and a rainbow sweatshirt."
This quote highlights Michelle Garcia Winner’s social solutions for individuals on the autism spectrum: Once an individual with autism understands the concepts of social thinking, s/he will better understand social relating, awareness of self and others.
On Finding The Right One
Jack Robison, son of John Elder Robison, author of Look Me In The Eye, answered this question frankly:
Then it was Jack’s turn to answer, in classic Aspie style. “I think I sort of lucked out," he said. “I have no doubt if I wasn’t dating Kirsten I would have a very hard time acquiring a girlfriend that was worthwhile."
This brings up an interesting facet of Aspie dating. In this case, there are both pros and cons to dating a fellow Aspie.
The pros are big: being in a relationship with someone who “gets it” about the challenges and gifts of the autism spectrum is important and validating.
On the other hand, when both of you struggle with ‘social blindness’ it can challenge the relationship. For a vivid depiction of the struggles and victories of a married couple with Asperger’s, you may want to check out Mozart and the Whale: An Asperger’s Love Story. It’s both a movie and a book.
Hope For Lasting Relationships
A mother who had slipped into the room (where Kirsten and Jack were addressing the young people) put up her hand.
“So I guess you’re saying, there is hope in the future for longer relationships," the mother pressed.
Kirsten gazed around the room. A few other adults had crowded in.
“Parents always ask, ‘Who would like to marry my kid? They’re so weird,’ " she said. “But, like, another weird person, that’s who."
In my humble opinion, it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round. The world needs all individuals’ contributions to life: whether that person has a specialized Asperger’s brain or a generalized neurotypical brain. As neurodiversity becomes more the norm, I believe we’ll see more acceptance of differences, and that will pave the way to more Aspie relationships.
Who To Look For
John Elder Robison, author of Look Me In The Eye, answers this question, posed to him by men with Asperger’s syndrome:
Sometimes people ask me, “What kind of person should a guy with Asperger’s look for?”
I can’t speak for you, but this is an answer that’s worked for me:
People with Asperger’s have very weak sensitivity to other people’s thoughts and feelings. But we often offset that with exceptionally strong logical brains. Therefore, we are wise to seek a mate with exceptional emotional sensitivity and less logical brainpower. Then, our mental abilities compliment each other’s. One of us has great emotional intelligence, and the other has great logical intelligence. Individually, we’re each weak. Together, though, we are very strong.
Here we can see that John most likely picked a person who was NT (neurotypical).
Healthy relationships can be had, but not without strong self-knowledge, social strategies and sensory tools. We are high maintenance, but very loving, loyal and exciting if allowed to be ourselves. We must acknowledge the impact of AS on our behavior for love to work.
Every single one of us, whether Aspie or not, need to read and reflect on the importance of working on ourselves in order to be a better partner to whoever we end up settling down with.
On Developing Dating Skills
This is the one non-Aspie quote in this article.
Mark Hutten, Asperger’s coach and therapist, writes the following at his blog, Parenting Your Asperger’s Child:
This is similar to driving — once you get a beginning level of expertise, you will learn regardless of what your native aptitude for driving is. One distinction — in relationships, there’s hardly any public transportation.
Do anything you can to facilitate getting started with dating or other romantic relationship socialization. This is the threshold to cross.
Dating or building relationships is really a threshold issue for Aspies to the extent that they can be divided into two groups — those who date (or are otherwise involved) and those who don’t. This is stereotypically in the form of “dating” but the actual form of meeting and activity can be varied.
What Asperger’s dating tips and quotes would you like to share with us?
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